One Computer Causes Mass Gridlock in Maryland

Wednesday, in Montgomery County, Maryland, commuters were rudely reminded that one big computer and a team of harried engineers control the flow of traffic.

This computer's crash disrupted the choreography of 750 traffic lights, which turned the morning as well as evening commutes into hours upon hours of completely stopped traffic. The computer itself is responsible for modulating how long each light stays green depending on the time of day, as well as coordinate them with each other, ensuring the continued flow of groups of cars.

As penance, Montgomery County officials said they plan to offer free bus rides all day Thursday, a decision made Wednesday night, even as county technicians continued to work feverishly to resurrect the faulty machine in time for the morning rush.

That a single computer failure can plunge an entire sector of the region into near gridlock underscored how fragile and overloaded the second-most congested urban area in the country has become. Courtesy of

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